Turkey has now embarked on a long journey that
will entail further economic and political reforms and hasten the process of
convergence with the developed economies of Europe
This supplement is timely. Last October, the European Union made the historic
decision to open negotiations with Turkey on its future membership. Earlier this
month in Luxembourg the first chapter of those negotiations was successfully
closed. Turkey has now embarked on a long journey that will entail further
economic and political reforms and hasten the process of convergence with the
developed economies of Europe.
Much remains to do before accession on the
political, economic and technical levels, and there are difficult challenges
ahead for Turkey, including on human rights. But there is a challenge for the
governments of Europe too. Many Europeans worry that the EU simply cannot take
in - or afford - a country the size of Turkey. We need to be able to show that
these fears are misplaced.Turkey's economy, bolstered by recent reforms, is
doing well. While it is true that the country's financial markets have been
badly affected by global volatility in recent weeks, the fundamentals remain in
The process of joining the EU is likely to
bring greater benefits still as higher standards of governance kick in. And
while Turkey already has good access to European markets through the customs
union, accession would bring them fully into the internal market.
That's good for Turkey. But it is good for the
rest of Europe too: a large and growing consumer market, an expanding demand for
banking and insurance services, a more stable and transparent environment for
investment. When the EU has enlarged in the past - the huge enlargement in 2004
being no exception - there has been a positive impact on the economy of existing
member states. Turkey will be the same.
Indeed, we in this country are already seeing
some of the benefits of a growing Turkey. British companies such as Vodafone,
BP, Tesco, HSBC and Shell are doing well there. Two million British tourists
visit every year. And just as we have seen skilled workers from Eastern Europe
supporting our economy, we can expect the same if and when Turkey joins. In
fact, 10 years from now, when the population of Western Europe has aged further,
Turkey's young, educated population will be even more welcome.
Some reports suggest this migrant labour will
add between 0.5% and 0.7% to the GDP of Western European countries. Compare that
to the estimates - all less than 0.2% - of the amount of the EU's total GDP
which would go as a net subsidy to Turkey.
In short, the greatest threat the people of
Europe face comes not from opening our doors to a vibrant, dynamic economy like
Turkey's, but from closing in on ourselves and allowing Europe to stagnate in
the face of global competition.
Then there is the question of stability and
security. Again, the result of Turkish accession would be overwhelmingly
positive. Make a list of the things that worry people in this country - crime,
drugs, terrorism, illegal immigration. Because of its geographical position,
Turkey plays a pivotal role in our efforts to deal with all of these. As
political and legal reforms kick in, Turkey's capacity to deal with these will
only increase - as will the level of our co-operation.
And having Turkey in the EU will not only
ensure that a big emerging economy is taking the right steps to tackle climate
change; its emerging status as a transit hub for oil and gas supplies will help
us secure the energy we need to keep our businesses running and our homes warm.
That's the pragmatic agenda - the very
practical reasons why women and men in Britain would be better off if Turkey
were to join the EU. But there is a wider imperative. For more than a thousand
years the boundaries between Europe and Asia have principally been decided by
bloodshed and conflict. Religion has often etched the dividing line. Welcoming
Turkey, with its large Muslim population, shows that what binds modern Europe
together is a set of fundamental rights and freedoms combined with a common
purpose; regardless of race or religion.
This is a powerful message not only to the
people of other faiths who live in neighbouring countries, but also to the
millions who already live within the borders of the European Union. That's why
all of us in Europe should welcome the EU's ever-closer relationship with a
modern, thriving Turkey.
- Margaret Beckett,
- Foreign secretary of UK